The stunning and imposing Sé Cathedral officially referred to as Santa Maria Maior de Lisboa (Patriarchal Cathedral of Saint Mary Major), is Lisbon’s oldest place of worship and certainly the most important religious building in the city.
The cathedral stands as a testimony to the history of Portugal and since its construction in 1147, and over time has absorbed expression of several architectural styles that include Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, and Neoclassical, that only add to this impassive structure.
The construction was commissioned by the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, and has since been the seat of the bishopric of Lisbon. In the 1700s, the country was rocked by a powerful earthquake, and sections of the Cathedral were destroyed. The subsequent renovation was commissioned by Alfonso IV and further renovations during the 19th and 20th centuries added modern touches on the facade and saw some major repair work done in the interiors.
On the route of the famed Tram 28, this cathedral is a ‘must see’. An interesting aspect is a section that contains the remains of a Roman town. In addition, the numerous rooms with their individual displays are really interesting to lovers of history and art.
Later that evening, we had the opportunity to attend the Missa do Galo (celebrated around the midnight of Christmas) at the Cathedral. Commemorating the Nativity of Jesus, the truly impressive service was celebrated by Dom Manuel José Macário do Nascimento Clemente, officially referred to as Manuel III, Cardinal-Patriarch of Lisbon (Patriarch of Lisbon). We were not expecting a crowd, there were just a few elderly parishioners sitting on the steps of the cathedral when we got there. Eventually, the cathedral was packed with parishioners as well as visitors, and I am quite sure the crowd helped warm up the interiors on an otherwise cold night.
The mass was perfect – well organised and orchestrated. The rich vestments and choral performance more than added to the grandeur of the celebration.